Tuesday, April 22, 2008

E. E. Cummings by Catherine Reef

I noticed E. E. Cummings: A Poet's Life by Catherine Reef in the Best Books for Young Adults 2008 list from YALSA in the March 1, 2008 issue of Booklist.

Poet E. E. Cummings (1894-1962) is remembered by contemporary readers more for his novel use of capitalization and punctuation than his verses. Scattered across pages and broken up into fragments, his words are hard to follow, their meanings difficult to grasp. In this compact, illustrated account of the revolutionary poet, author Catherine Reef explains that Cummings viewed his poems as bridges between language and visual art. Early in his career, he was more successful as a painter than poet. He viewed his life as an artistic mission that should not be compromised or limited by medium. The result was a life full of good friendships with other poets (Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams) and difficult romantic and family relationships.

While aimed at teenage readers, Reef does not filter adult themes like prostitution and infidelity from Cummings life. Adults may also enjoy this sympathetic portrait of a gentle but complicated man. The author includes many samples of Cummings poetry and photographs of his associates and the places that he lived and visited.

I notice that only sixteen of the public libraries in the SWAN catalog of the Metropolitan Library System have this well-done biography, and there is no agreement where it goes. More should have it somewhere in their collections.

Reef, Catherine. E. E. Cummings. Clarion Books, 2006. 149p. ISBN 9780618568499.

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